When can puppies leave their mothers?

Mother dogs provide more than just milk for their puppies, so be patient while waiting for your new family member. Deciding when to wean a puppy involves more than just determining how long the puppy should nurse.

The ideal nutrition for puppies is breast milk. The longer they nurse, the longer they have to get the perfect food. Some puppies will nurse for 8 weeks or more if their mother allows them. If she is unable to nurse for any reason, the breeder will use puppy milk replacer to ensure the puppy receives a balanced diet.

When do puppies stop drinking milk?

Puppies start teething when they are about 3 to 4 weeks old. By that time, nursing may become uncomfortable for the puppy. The mother dog begins to spend more time away from the puppies and often spends less time nursing herself.

Many breeders begin offering food as a slurry at this age to compensate for the loss of the bitch. This is especially important with large litters of piglets, as the mother’s nutrient loss rate is high. Most puppies will continue to nurse and eat semi-solid food until they are 5 to 7 weeks old. Hand-raised puppies usually switch to “real food” in about three weeks.

Remember to provide water as well. With the transition to solid food, puppies will need fluids.

The decision to wean puppies

Time with mother and siblings is very important for a puppy’s social development. Puppies should stay with their mother until they are 8 weeks old, and if they are a toy breed, many breeders will keep their puppies until 10 weeks or older. (One study equated puppy cuteness with weaning time.)

While puppies may no longer need nutrition from their mother, behavioral input is extremely important at this time. The dam will regulate interactions with humans and other dogs and model behavior. A good mother plays with her puppies and provides support in new situations. Don’t rush this important time in your puppy’s life.